Okay, in all fairness, writing did not cure my depression: it took a lot more than writing to do that. However, the simple-yet-transformative practice of waking up every morning and sitting down to write for two hours is not only cheaper than talk therapy but also nearly as effective.
I’m not writing this as typical self-help advice. I don’t like much of the self-help material out there, even though I read my fair share of it for kicks on a lonely Friday or Saturday night. Most of the self-help types seem to forget that everyone is an individual while simultaneously sharing the things that make them happy—as individuals. I’m going to do the latter while avoiding the former by emphasizing that writing, like therapy, will not help everyone. For some, the act of writing may be more traumatic than the stressors that lead an individual like me to write every morning. The simple act of engaging with one’s own feelings can be traumatic. In short, written self-expression is not for everyone.
It’s perfect for me, though, because I am a complex person, and, like many men, I sometimes struggle to put my feelings into words. It’s easy to forget that there are other outlets for feelings that do not involve awkward (or drunken) conversations with friends, family, colleagues, lovers, and so on. What’s more is that those feelings can be tempered through writing. Allow me to explain:
When I am hit with strong feelings—let’s say, on the subject of male mentorship and how its decline has screwed me over both personally and professionally—the old me would call one of my close friends and rant until I either felt better or made my friend feel worse. At times this felt productive and healthy—at least in comparison to drinking my feelings away—but at other times I felt like I was burdening my friends and wallowing in negativity.
Once I developed the daily practice of writing, I found a way to transmute potential late-night phone rants and other forms of venting into writing that was not only designed to unload on a larger audience in a more eloquent fashion but also to force self-reflection because the act of writing and (especially) publishing necessitates accountability. In other words, while it’s unlikely that I’ll lose a close friend because of one outburst—although this has happened—I can lose far more than one friend (my reputation) if I write and then publish a profanity-laced tirade for the whole world to see, for example.
So when I find myself outraged enough to rant, I write my feelings down. I may still decide to rant later, but at that point I have already reflected: I have already seen my thoughts manifested into words. This allows me to question whether the issue is worth the time and energy I’m giving it. Maybe I’ll decide to save my time for something more important and my energy for something I have more control over.
This is one (important) reason why I write every morning. I hope this convinces you if you’re still on the fence about adopting a therapeutic writing practice. If not, there are always late-night phone rants.
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